Category Archives: Trees of Spain

Valle del Jerte in Extremadura

  • Declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1973.
  • Towns and villages: Barrado, Cabezuela del Valle, Cabrero, Casas del Castañar, El Torno, Jerte, Navaconcejo, Piornal, Rebollar, Tornavacas, Valdastillas.
  • Best time to visit: Mid March to mid April

Located in the extreme north-east of the province, the Valle del Jerte in Extremadura is bordered to the north by the provinces of Ávila and Salamanca, to the west by Valle del Ambroz, to the south by the city of Plasencia and to the east by La Vera. The area has become quite famous for the beauty of its cherry tree orchards in spring and for the Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve.

Find a hotel close to the Valle del Jerte in Extremadura

The cherry bloom festival

During the second week of March the festival of El Cerezo en Flor is celebrated in the Jerte Valley when over a million and a half trees are in full bloom.

Valle del Jerte in Extremadura - Picota cherries
Valle del Jerte in Extremadura – Picota cherries

At this time of year a circular route through the villages by car is highly recommended. (Valdastillas, Piornal, Barrado, Cabrero, Casas del Castañar, El Torno and Rebollar. (about 50 KM)

Reserva Natural Garganta de los Infiernos

Located in the heart of the Jerte Valley, the Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve is known for its streams and waterfalls and rock pools. From the Sierra de Tormantos to the southwestern slope of the Sierra de Gredos, the course of the Jerte River shapes granite and gneiss landscapes with the highest point being the Cuerda de los Infiernos at more than 2,000 meters and the Cerro del Estecillo, an old glacier, considered to be the origin of the Jerte valley.

Reserva Natural Garganta de los Infiernos
Wildlife and nature walks in the Reserva Natural Garganta de los Infiernos

In the deciduous forests there are some large specimens of oak along with hawthorn, yew, holly, birch, strawberry and chestnut trees. In the undergrowth of oaks there are abundant species of ferns and orchids. On the sunniest slopes there are large areas of the cultivated picota cherry.

Autumn in the Valle del Jerte
The Garganta de los Infiernos

The variety of ecosystems in the Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve favors the abundance and diversity of fauna. The waters of this reserve are populated by a number of fish species such as common trout, the most characteristic of these rivers. Although amphibians such as salamanders and newts are also present.

At the river side look out for kingfisher and dipper and in the skies, griffon vulture and especially golden eagles.

Mammals represented in the area include wildcat and genet, otter and the little known desman. The most abundant mammal species in the area is Spanish Ibex.

The Garganta de los Infiernos Natural Reserve has quite a few walking routes through some of the most beautiful places in the Jerte region such as: Los Pilones, Carlos V Route, Cordel del Valle and the route through Upper Extremadura. (More info on these routes at the main information centre in Cabezuela del Valle

The Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve
The Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve – Valle del Jerte, Caceres, Extremadura

Tourist offices and museums

Oficina de turismo del Valle del Jerte

Paraje de Peñas Albas, s/n, 10610 Cabezuela del Valle, Càceres

This is the main tourist office to head for where you will be able to get information about the area in general along with maps and guides for walking routes in the area.

Museo de la Cereza

In the same town as the main tourist office for the area you can also find the cherry museum. Here, information panels and exhibitions explain the cultivation of the world famous Jerte cherries.

C/ Hondón, 58, Cabezuela del Valle

The official website for the Valle del Jerte in Extremadura is

Alternative titles for this article
  • The Valle del Jerte: A Springtime Wonderland
  • Cherry Blossoms in the Valle del Jerte
  • Explore the Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve
  • The Best Things to Do in the Valle del Jerte
  • A Guide to the Valle del Jerte

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Cork and its huge importance to the environment

Quercus suber (Cork) is a type of evergreen oak tree native to the Mediterranean region. The tree has adapted to the problems of fire and drought in this area by growing a thicker bark as a protective layer. This outer layer of cork has many industrial uses and huge open forests have been developed to benefit from it in 7 countries bordering the Mediterranean sea – covering some 2.7 million hectares in Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia, and France. So lets learn about Cork and its huge importance to the environment.

These majestic oak trees are not felled or damaged during the cork harvest, small professional teams work through the forests, carefully stripping the bark by hand using a special axe. This is done during the heat of the summer when it comes away more freely.  The cork sheets are carried out on mules before being stacked onto lorries and stored. The outer tree layer regenerates over 9 to 12 years, a tree will be approximately 50 years old before its bark will be of suitable quality for a wine stopper and live on to be around 200 years old.

Forests have little or no work carried out in between harvests, so you can envisage the importance to wildlife that these forests hold as havens for rare and endemic species. Recent research has discovered a wealth of animal and plant forms that exist here because of the humidity. The heavy tree canopy and many deep water channels combine to create a subtropical micro climate in a normally dry part of Spain.

Find a hotel in cork country

These forests are exemplary in their balance of conservation and economic development.  Spain is the second largest producer at around 25% of the world supply (following Portugal), selling around 300 million euros of cork abroad, and providing a source of livelihood for many thousands of people.

Cork has been used by humans in the Mediterranean basin since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used it for sealing jars, for roofing and for making beehives. Beginning in the 18th century cork became widely used in industry, particularly after the development of the cork stopper by Dom Pierre Pérignon , a Benedictine monk well known for creating the first champagne. Cork’s elasticity combined with its near-impermeability makes it an ideal material for bottle stoppers. The most expensive corks are cut from one piece, but “agglomerated” corks are made from the smaller grains glued together. Offcuts of cork and scraps are collected for processing into alternative cork products – nothing is wasted.

Video (in Spanish) well worth watching

What is cork used for?

Due to cork’s unique qualities its applications are diverse; from spacecraft heat shields and fairings to mopping up oil spills. Some of the following uses you may be aware of;  flooring, wall covering, sound/heat insulation, engine gaskets, fishing floats, shoes, furniture, kitchen utensils, ornaments,  handles for fishing rods, walking poles and bicycles, helmet linings, dartboards, the core of baseballs, hockey and cricket balls.

After a recent decline in use as wine-closures when cheaper synthetic alternatives were heavily marketed, cork wine-stoppers are making a comeback. Its environmental impact is dramatically less than that of oil and metal based closures, plus it is the best material suited for red wines, cognacs etc., allowing oxygen to interact with wine for proper ageing.

Environmentalists, WWF and ornithological groups are campaigning to save the cork industry from further decline by making wine drinkers more aware of their power in choosing cork only bottles. If the market demand for cork stoppers were to decrease significantly, the entire system could collapse (cork stoppers represent about 60% of all cork based production), it is likely that the forests could be lost through neglect, fire, diversification and over-grazing during the next 10 years.

Cork is a completely natural, renewable, recyclable material with a huge importance to the environment.

Where can you go to find out more?

Well, your first stop should be the natural park of Los Alcornocales. Los Alcornocales is a forest of Cork oak trees, the largest in Iberia and therefore important to the worlds cork supply. The park, which also embraces mountains, creates a green corridor from the Sierra de Grazalema natural park through to the coastal zone at Tarifa.

Los Alcornocales natural park
Other places to find out more information

Written by Clive Muir  (Edited by Sue Eatock)
Photographs by Sue Eatock

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The Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) in the Sierra Grazalema

The Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo) is a species of tree which survived the last glaciation. An elegant tree growing to a height of about 25m with a conical shape. Its growth is dense and a rich green, although there are occasional specimens of a blue colouration. The branches generally form rings around the trunk. The roots which are thick and long are sometimes very superficial. The trunk is straight and cylindrical but in some old individuals the shape can be irregular, twisted and contorted with more than one leader. (This is often due to beetle damage). The leaves are needle-shaped, rigid and somewhat sharp, these needles living up to 15 years, the maximum age among all gymnosperms.

These trees need high humidity and shady slopes or soils that retain a certain amount of water. Male and female cones are present on the same individual, but to avoid inbreeding the female cones are at the top of the tree (giving more chance of wind dispersal) and the male cones are lower down towards the middle.

The female cone is made up of many individual triangular pieces; a small membranous wing that helps in wind dispersal, and the attached seed. These cones disintegrate and release the seeds during the autumn. Pinsapos, as they are known in Spanish, are biologically fir trees and belong to the group of gymnosperms or plants without true flowers such as cedars, pines and cypresses.

If you would like to see pinsapo trees and learn a bit more about them, why not book a day out with Sue from Nature Plus – Grazalema.


Where are Spanish Fir trees found?

Their distribution is very restricted but the Spanish fir tree can be found in three forest masses which are:

  • Sierra de las Nieves National Park‘; occupying a large area of about 3,000 hectares, both in concentrated small groups and more openly distributed with a mix of other species. They are expanding well between the municipalities of Parauta, Ronda, El Burgo, Yunquera and Tolox.
  • ‘El Paraje Natural Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja’; occupying about 70 acres in Los Reales, between Estepona and Jubrique / Genalguacil (Damaged by fire in 2021 but the main core forest survived)

Discovery of the Spanish fir tree

Clemente Rubio is currently attributed to the botanical discovery of the pinsapo as he took note of them in 1809 during a trip to the Serrania de Ronda. His writings were long believed lost but were rediscovered:

“We entered the pine forest .. in which there are few oaks and everything else pinsapos. They look from some distance like dark cypress with a conical shape …. “…

But the discovery for science is due to the pharmacists Haensel and Prolongo who showed sprigs of pinsapo to the botanist Edmond Boissier of Geneva who visited the city of Málaga in 1837.

Near Estepona he was able to see pinsapo trees with his own eyes on an autumn excursion with his friends Haensel and Prolongo and came to identify the tree through the cone as belonging to the genus Abies. There is nothing like the words of E. Boissier from his book “Voyaje Botanique dans le midi d’Espagne” to describe the emotion of the moment

… very near there, the guide showed us the first pinsapo from afar, with shouts of joy running full of emotion, but unfortunately the tree had no fruit, a second, third look gave me false hopes, I was lucky enough in the end and saw one whose upper branches were laden with upright cones. We hastened to scramble to pick them and there was no doubt about the kind of tree and its uniqueness. Abies was certainly close to our common fir …

Boissier reported the discovery in a magazine the next year giving the scientific name – Abies pinsapo.

Abies pinsapo are protected through environmental laws and regulations of protected natural areas of Andalucia, European directives and recently as a Biosphere Reserve. The pinsapo is listed as Endangered (EN) on the Red List of Threatened Vascular Flora of Andalusia.

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Almond blossom in the Sierra de Grazalema

Pale pink almond blossom is a delightful sight and a harbinger of spring when it opens in late January through February. As it flowers before the leaves appear there is a delicate candy-floss appearance to the trees. You can see almond blossom in the Sierra de Grazalema grouped in orchards, or as singles marking the edges of pastures and arable fields.

The scientific name is Prunus dulcis, and it is part of the peach family. Whereas the edible part of the latter is the thick fleshy outer layer, the almond fruit is more nut-like, and it is the kernel residing in the centre that we eat. You will be familiar with the characteristic hard shell of an almond, on the tree this is surrounded by a green hairy coat which turns grey and shrinks in the heat of the summer. After flowering in the early spring, the fruits mature through the hot summer and are harvested during the autumn.

There are two varieties of almonds: sweet and bitter. Bitter almonds are toxic if consumed in quantity. But, once the naturally occurring prussic acid has been removed the oil of bitter almonds can be used in the manufacture of flavouring extracts for foods and liqueurs.

The origins of the almond tree have been traced back to south western Asia, and biblical references suggest that almond nuts have been grown in Israel since 2000 B.C. Now primarily grown in Mediterranean climates, they are an economically important crop. Centuries of selection and cultivation have ensured sweet flavour, large seeds and high yields, with the Marcona and Valencia cultivars originating from Spain.

Sweet almonds can be bought in their shells, pre-shelled, blanched (treated in hot water to remove the brown seed-coat), flaked, kibbled or ground into flour. Recipes including almonds range from savoury to sweet, breads and pastries, marzipans to liqueurs. They can be eaten raw, toasted or baked, this versatility and rich flavour makes them very popular. Almonds are even in many skin products in the form of sweet almond oil, which also makes the perfect base oil for body massage.

Marcona almonds (a cultivar originating in Spain) are more rounded in shape and favoured for making bars of Turrón, a popular Christmas treat. Turrón can be soft or brittle and ingredients vary greatly, based on whole or crushed and ground almonds, then adding sugar, honey, egg, cinnamon, lemon, chocolate, coconut, walnut and a whole host of other ingredients.

Amarguillos de almendra

This is the name of a biscuit type confectionary popular in Andalusia, with different localities adding unique flavours; however the basic ingredient is always almonds. The name suggests that they are bitter, this dates back to when the occasional bitter almonds with their dominating taste would have been harvested together with the sweet.

  • 250 g finely ground almonds
  • 200g fine sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Raw almonds to decorate


  1. Blend the ingredients together then arrange onto baking parchment; you can use an icing bag or spoon to shape the mixture into biscuit forms.
  2. Add a raw almond to the centre of each.
  3. Place into a warm oven set at 170º and bake until slightly golden.
  4. The outside will be crunchy and the inside soft.

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